Cheese Choux Nibbles

Choux pastry rings alarm bells with many people who presume it to be the domain of the professional pastry chef. In fact, as pastry goes, it's one of the simplest – it doesn't require a light touch, cold hands or any of the other 'special' things that many other types of pastry do.

This recipe is fine for simple savouries, a sort of baked beignet – you may want to use a more refined recipe though for things like éclairs or profiteroles. It uses a 2:4:8 ratio of butter, flour and water when made using imperial measurements – that's 2oz butter, 4oz plain flour and 8 fluid ounces of water – you also need 3 eggs. Firstly, melt the water and butter in a pan. Mix the flour with a pinch of salt, ½ teasp each of mustard powder and cayenne pepper (or chilli powder). Bring butter mix to a boil and immediately add all the flour etc. stir vigorously to mix and continue beating over a gentle heat until it forms a 'ball'.

The flour, butter and water 'ball'

Add about an ounce of grated cheese – Sparkenhoe Farmhouse Red Leicester from the Leicestershire Handmade Cheese Co is nice. Then add 3 beaten eggs, one at a time, mixing each one in before adding the next; I use a handheld electric mixer to do this. You might not need all the egg, maybe only 2½. The 'dough' should be loose but still able to hold a shape. Mine could probably done with a little less egg.

After adding the egg

I then pipe the mix onto baking sheets covered with a 'baking liner' or parchment; you could do the same using a teaspoon. Sprinkle more cheese over the top – Cheddar in this case – you folk in big houses could use Gruyere, Parmesan or something more expensive – they won't taste any better but it sounds awfully posh!

The nibbles ready for baking

Bake for about 10 mins on 200°C then prick each one with a skewer and return to the oven for about another 3 minutes 'till nice and brown.

The finished nibbles

This makes 'loads and loads' probably 120 or so, it's cheap and for some strange reason people are impressed. Even better is to make them fractionally larger, then using a piping bag and small nozzle, fill them with cream cheese and chives or another filling of your choice.

They make a good canapé for a posh 'do'.

For a vegetarian version use a cheese made with 'vegetarian rennet'.


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